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It’s been a really challenging month for many local, independent businesses in the UK. With uncertain government support, and continuing expenses while being unable to provide their normal goods and services, there’s a real concern that some, if not many, local businesses may no longer be there when we’re through with this pandemic.
Why should we care? Does it matter whether I buy a coffee from Starbucks or Dan the Caf Van Man? Why should I get my embroidery material from Betty’s Sewing Shop when it’s 20% cheaper on Amazon? A tomato is a tomato right – what’s the difference if I buy it from Sainsbury’s or my local market?
In this two-part blog post for Be a Local Hero, we’ll explore the personal benefits of buying and supporting local, and then what we can do to help sustain our favourite local businesses during this difficult time.
If I’m going to be very honest, I’m not always a completely altruistic person. Many of the decisions that I make are framed around the question: “what’s in it for me?” So, I decided to do some research on whether it made sense personally to spend my money locally, and here’s what I discovered.
When it comes to buying groceries and choosing places to eat, locally sourced food has a higher chance of being not only tastier, but healthier. The main health benefit of locally grown food is that it’s fresher. Fruits and vegetables begin to lose their nutrients within 24 hours of being picked, so fresher produce is more nutritious.
In addition, locally grown food typically has more flavour as it is picked at peak ripeness, when it’s most dense in nutrients, compared to supermarket produce that has to be harvested before it is fully ripe to survive storage and distribution. So buying local vs from a supermarket is a win win!
Spending at a local business, rather than a large chain, is appreciably better for the economy of your community. Research by local authorities shows that for every £1 spent with a small or medium-sized business, 63p stayed in the local economy, compared to 40p with a larger business. More money in the local economy means more money spent on improving the quality of the services in your local area.
Additionally, high streets populated with thriving independent businesses increase the value of nearby homes according to an American Express study. So putting your hard earned money into your local businesses, is not only providing you with that good or service, but investing into your personal wealth and quality of life.
If you’re someone who cares about your personal impact on the environment, then you’ll be happy to know that taking the decision to shop locally can be a significant contributor to improving your eco-score. Locally owned businesses often make more local purchases for their products, requiring less transportation and outsourcing. They typically consume less land, are located closer to residents and create less traffic and air pollution. All of this leads to less congestion, less habitat loss and less pollution.
This isn’t to say that shopping at all local businesses is better for the environment; I recommend you do your own due diligence if it’s really important to you, but the factors of how local businesses conduct their business certainly lend themselves to being more environmentally friendly.
Being visible and engaged with your local businesses will ensure that you have the safety net of people in your community, particularly in this COVID-19 crisis where we are so reliant on our neighbours to step up and support people in need. Local businesses are owned and operated by your neighbors! Unlike “Amazon-seller-2593”, they care about and are invested in the well-being of your community and its future.
Having that relationship with Dan the Caf Van Man through chats over your daily caffeine hit not only means you might get a free cookie, but also that there’s another person to rely on in your community if and when you need it.
We could be healthier, wealthier, more environmentally friendly, and better connected to boot.
We’ve discovered that spending money locally has the potential to have a huge personal upside if done with consideration. We could be healthier, wealthier, more environmentally friendly, and better connected to boot. By ensuring that our local businesses are successful, and contributing to their success, we ourselves can reap great benefits.
So let’s bring it back to the issue at hand. Lots of local businesses are struggling through this lockdown, and there’s uncertainty about the ability of our favourite shops, restaurants, bars, gyms, hairdressers and all the other local services to reopen once restrictions are lifted.
Knowing that the survival of local independent businesses are a factor to our, and many others’ quality of life, what can we do to support them through the crisis?
Come back next Friday for the second part of this blog post, where we’ll be exploring a few of the actions we can take to support our local businesses, and how it will actually help them.
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